The Poetry Of A. E. Housman

This essay The Poetry Of A. E. Housman has a total of 868 words and 5 pages.

The Poetry of A. E. Housman

Housman was born in Burton-On-Trent, England, in 1865, just as
the US Civil War was ending. As a young child, he was disturbed by the
news of slaughter from the former British colonies, and was affected
deeply. This turned him into a brooding, introverted teenager and a
misanthropic, pessimistic adult. This outlook on life shows clearly in
his poetry. Housman believed that people were generally evil, and that
life conspired against mankind. This is evident not only in his
poetry, but also in his short stories. For example, his story, "The
Child of Lancashire," published in 1893 in The London Gazette, is
about an child who travels to London, where his parents die, and he
becomes a street urchin. There are veiled implications that the child
is a homosexual (as was Housman, most probably), and he becomes mixed
up with a gang of similar youths, attacking affluent pedestrians and
stealing their watches and gold coins. Eventually he leaves the gang
and becomes wealthy, but is attacked by the same gang (who don't
recognize him) and is thrown off London Bridge into the Thames, which
is unfortunately frozen over, and is killed on the hard ice below.
Housman's poetry is similarly pessimistic. In fully half the poems the
speaker is dead. In others, he is about to die or wants to die, or his
girlfriend is dead. Death is a really important stage of life to
Housman; without death, Housman would probably not have been able to
be a poet. (Housman, himself, died in 1937.) A few of his poems show
an uncharacteristic optimism and love of beauty, however. For example,
in his poem "Trees," he begins:

"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Hung low with bloom along the bow
Stands about the woodland side
A virgin in white for Eastertide"

...and ends:

"Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree."

(This is a popular quotation, yet most people don't know its source!)

Religion is another theme of Housman's. Housman seems to have had
trouble reconciling conventional Christianity with his homosexuality
and his deep clinical depression. In "Apologia pro Poemate Meo" he
states:

"In heaven-high musings and many
Far off in the wayward night sky,
I would think that the love I bear you
Would make you unable to die [death again]

Would God in his church in heaven
Forgive us our sins of the day,
That boy and man together
Might join in the night and the way."

I think that the sense of hopelessness and homosexual lo

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